KINGSTON — Many students in Jamaica have learnt a hard lesson: high schools are no ordinary playground.
As a result, many feel compelled to carry knives and other sharp weapons in their bags alongside books, in a bid to protect themselves from becoming victims of violent, sometimes fatal attacks.
It is a jungle out there as data contained in the 2012 Economic and Social Survey Jamaica has revealed that thousands of weapons were confiscated from students last year.
A peer counsellor from one of the nation’s troubled high schools situated in the belly of one of Kingston’s rugged inner-city communities said a fellow student explained that he is ‘allowed’ to take his knife to school “because of where he lives and the violence directed at him and his family because of what his father had done in the community”.
“That was a measure of safety for him because they were always trying to kill somebody,” said the peer counsellor who requested anonymity.
While admitting that some students succumb to peer pressure and carry weapons to school just to look cool, the peer counsellor, who is a grade 11 student, told our news team that self-preservation is the most common reason he gets from his peers as the reason for taking a weapon to school.
“Protection is the main reason, because you know if you get into a fight they (other students) will have theirs, so you have to carry one too,” he said.
Despite the existence of the safe schools programme, the peer counsellor believes in a stronger detachment of police personnel in the troubled schools. “Instead of security guards they could use police officers to replace or complement them,” he said.
Andre Bromley, former head boy of Tivoli Gardens High School in the perennially troubled West Kingston, had no confidence that the authorities would be able to put a stop to the tidal wave of weapons crashing into the nation’s schools.
“It is hardly likely that we will put an end to this. I don’t see a solution right now,” said Bromley.
“There is no way to prevent it. The checks and searches are (often) futile because the weapons still get in. We have seen it time and time again,” he added.
The former head boy also said the authorities need to probe the incestuous relationships between some of the students and those charged to do the searches as they often turn a blind eye to a select few.
“Friendships have been formed with security personnel who stop searching particular individuals. Instead of using arbitrary persons, (all) schools (should) hire a security company,” he said. (Gleaner)